Missouri has a high rate of homelessness but the homeless are human

3 months 3 weeks 1 day ago Sunday, March 31 2019 Mar 31, 2019 Sunday, March 31, 2019 3:39:00 PM CDT March 31, 2019 in News
By: Sania Blu, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - Missouri continues to fight high rates of homelessness, but one man reminds people that the homeless are still human. 

"I didn't consider myself a bad person...just circumstances happened to work out the way they did," said Scott Gardner, a formerly homeless veteran.

Divorce, depression and losing his job are circumstances that caused Gardner to be homeless.

As of January 2017, Missouri's total homeless population is 6,037 people according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15 percent of the people living in Boone County are in poverty. This is higher than the county's 2018 poverty rate of 14 percent.

Megan Sievers, the development director at  a Columbia nonprofit veteran organization and shelter called Welcome Home, said homelessness can mean many things.

"It really does depend on who you talk to: different agencies, organizations, different governments. For some, it is somebody who is sleeping out on the streets, under a bridge or in their car. For some it's those who don't have their own housing, meaning maybe they're couch surfing or staying with certain family members before bouncing to another family member's place," Sievers said.

Welcome Home has its own definition of homelessness. 

"For us, homelessness means somebody who doesn't have a place of their own to call theirs. What we strive to do is welcome them in here and welcome them in our doors to have a place for them to call home temporarily," Sievers said. 

Gardner said negative stereotypes about homelessness make people think the homeless are bad people or did bad things. 

"If I wouldn't have lost my job, I don't think I would've been homeless," Gardner said. 

A friend referred Gardner to Welcome Home. This is where he met Sievers.

Sievers said people need to think about their ideas of homelessness.

"When people think homeless, they think of the pan-handeler down the street, truly. The person that you drive by on an afternoon, holding a sign and a jar asking for money that you try not to make eye-contact with because it's uncomfortable not to give them money, but you really don't want to put yourself out there," Sievers said.

She also said some people blame the homeless for their situations.

"That's a stigma. There are people out there. They don't want to work. They don't care to work. They don't want to try to get better," said Sievers. 

Gardner admitted he, too, judged the homeless.

"A lot of us have not had to walk in those shoes. I wasn't going to change my view until I actually found myself in the situation" Gardner said.

After becoming homeless, Gardner realized it could happen to anyone.

"A lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck. They may have a new car. They may have a nice home, but they may be two months away from no money," Gardner said.

Sievers said many factors can lead to homelessness.

"There are a lot of variables that lead to homelessness, and for every individual it's different just like every life is different and every outcome is different," Sievers said.

Sievers said those variables include: mental or physical disabilities, a lack of family or social network and not knowing the resources to get help.

"These are people who haven't landed well. We have to find these men and women," she said. 

The 2018 Missouri Poverty report says about 46 percent of homeless adults living in shelters have severe mental illness.

Since experiencing homelessness, Gardner said he has more empathy. 

"Because of my own issues with mental illness on top of the homelessness, I think that I became much more empathetic about the person who was in that situation. Before I judge them, let me listen to them," Gardner said.

If people want to help, Gardner said they should reach out to shelter directors like Sievers. 

Sievers said the community has a duty to help the homeless population and correct negative stigmas against homelessness. 

"We have a duty to make sure those stigmas are wiped to a point where our community embraces our homeless population," she said.

Gardner said he doesn't think money is always necessary.

"The people that dropped of some donuts and talked to us...that didn't take a lot. Their time...If somebody really wants to help, volunteer their time. It could change somebody's life," Gardner said. 

"Waving and smiling, sometimes that's all it takes...human to human just to say 'hey I see you'," Sievers said. 

Gardner said if people want to know other ways to help,they should contact homeless shelter directors. 

With the time, help and resources from Welcome Home, Gardner was able to find his own place. January 2019 began his second year in his home. 

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA — Prosecutors charged Ryan Wade Blair, 27, with two counts of assault and endangering a correctional officer. Blair... More >>
6 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 7:36:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A federal judge sentenced a Columbia man Monday morning for his role in a drug trafficking case. ... More >>
8 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 5:27:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Transportation will receive $81.2 million to replace the Rocheport Bridge. The money will... More >>
9 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 4:36:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. — A Chicago man faces criminal charges related to a suspicious package case in Holts Summit. ... More >>
9 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 4:11:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A roof collapsed early this morning from too much rain. The apartment complex had a temporary fix... More >>
10 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:59:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Users of the popular social sharing site Reddit are upset after they say a scammer targeted them--posing as... More >>
10 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:50:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
MOBERLY - Contaminants stemming from an Orscheln facility may be in Moberly's air and sewers, and the City Council voted... More >>
11 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:12:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Close to 90,000 children and 23,000 adults have been dropped from Missouri's Medicaid health insurance program... More >>
11 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:03:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A power outage has caused Lincoln University to close for the rest of Monday. The... More >>
14 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 11:37:00 AM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
MACKS CREEK — A building in Camden County has collapsed after floodwaters compromised the structure. According to a Facebook... More >>
15 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 10:28:00 AM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
ESTES PARK, CO. — John Drage doesn’t know how many more miles he’s got left in him. Every step,... More >>
16 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 9:28:00 AM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
STRAFFORD — A KY3 viewer, JD Matney, shared this video of a mountain lion walking along just north of Strafford.... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, July 21 2019 Jul 21, 2019 Sunday, July 21, 2019 8:24:00 PM CDT July 21, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA — Columbia police responded to a report of shots fired early Sunday morning. The incident occurred on Apple... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, July 21 2019 Jul 21, 2019 Sunday, July 21, 2019 6:08:00 PM CDT July 21, 2019 in News
LAKE OF THE OZARKS - Missouri Highway Patrol Troop F responded to a boat fire at the Lake of the... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, July 21 2019 Jul 21, 2019 Sunday, July 21, 2019 5:40:00 PM CDT July 21, 2019 in Continuous News
JEFFERSON CITY - FEMA opened the doors of a new Disaster Recovery Center in Cole County over the weekend. ... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, July 21 2019 Jul 21, 2019 Sunday, July 21, 2019 1:37:00 PM CDT July 21, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — A Columbia teenager is home safe after she was missing for almost two days. Summer Skye Allen,... More >>
2 days ago Saturday, July 20 2019 Jul 20, 2019 Saturday, July 20, 2019 9:05:00 PM CDT July 20, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA — Three men were arrested after allegedly stealing $22,000 worth of electronics from a Moberly Walmart Saturday. Several... More >>
2 days ago Saturday, July 20 2019 Jul 20, 2019 Saturday, July 20, 2019 6:53:00 PM CDT July 20, 2019 in Continuous News
CENTERTOWN - Family, friends and even strangers showed up to celebrate Jasen Smith's life at his Memorial Benefit at Apple... More >>
2 days ago Saturday, July 20 2019 Jul 20, 2019 Saturday, July 20, 2019 4:35:00 PM CDT July 20, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 67°
2am 65°
3am 64°
4am 63°
5am 61°